Virtually the entire Polish population is literate. For the year 2000, adult illiteracy was estimated at 0.2% (males, 0.2%; females 0.2%). Primary, secondary, and most university and other education is free. State and local expenditure on education is, therefore, substantial. Lower schools are financed by local budgets, higher and vocational schools from the state budget. In the latter half of the 1990s, approximately 24.8% of government expenditure was allocated to education. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.4% of GDP.
The school system, which is centralized, consists of an eight-year primary school followed by a four-year secondary general education school, five-year technical school, or basic three-year vocational training school. In 1996, primary schools had a combined enrollment of 5,021,378 students and a staff of 325,601 teachers. Student-to-teacher ratio stood at 15 to 1. In the same year, secondary schools had 2,539,138 students and 121,301 teachers. As of 1999, 97% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 88% of those eligible attended secondary school. Vocational schools are attended by students studying technology, agriculture, forestry, economy, education, health services, and the arts. Institutions of higher learning had 75,432 teachers and enrolled 720,267 students in 1996.
Higher learning is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Higher Education and other ministries. A matriculation examination, which is common for all students, is required for admission to institutions of higher learning. Of the 98 third-level institutions, 11 are universities, 18 polytechnical schools, 17 art schools, 11 medical academies, and three theological academies. Jagiellonian University, among the oldest in Europe, was established at Cracow in 1364. Other prominent universities are the Warsaw University; the Central School of Planning and Statistics (Warsaw); the Higher Theater School (Warsaw); the Academy of Fine Arts (Cracow); and the Adam Mickiewicz University (Poznan ´). During the communist era the Roman Catholic University at Lublin was the only free private university in the Socialist bloc. Evening and extramural courses are available for anyone who is interested and is not a part of the school system. Foreign students are also welcome to study in Poland, either as regular students or at their summer schools.